298 B- POLEVOI
so small. Must have been pretty by the look of her. A brick
hit her in the chest. She is prettyŚlike a little child."
That night the German army launched its last big
offensive; and in attacking the lines of the Soviet forces
started the Battle of the Kursk Salient which proved fatal
The sun had not yet risen; it was the darkest hour of
the short summer night, but the engines being warmed up
in the airfield were already roaring. On a map spread out
on the dewy grass, Captain Cheslov was showing the
airmen of his squadron their new airfield and the route
"Keep your eyes open," he was saying. "Don't lose sight
of each other. The airfield is right in the forward lines."
The new base was, indeed, in the fighting line marked
on the map with blue pencil, on a salient that jutted into
the dispositions of the German forces. To get there they
flew not back, but forward. The airmen were delighted.
In spite of the fact that the enemy had taken the initiative
again, the Soviet Army was not preparing to retreat, but
When the first rays of the sun lit up the sky, and the
pink mist was still rolling over the field, the Second
Squadron rose into the air in the wake of their command-
er, and the planes set course for the south, keeping in
Meresyev and Petrov kept close together in their first
joint flight, and short as it was, Petrov was able to
appreciate the confident and truly masterly style of his
leader; and Meresyev, deliberately veering sharply and
suddenly several times on the way, noticed that his
follower possessed gumption, a good eye, strong nerves,
and what he regarded as most important, a good flying
style, though not yet confident.
The new air strip was situated in the rear of an infan-
try regiment. If the Germans discovered it, they would
be able to reach it with their light guns and even with
their heavy trench mortars. But they had no time to bother
with an airfield that had appeared under their noses.
While it was still dark they had opened fire on the for-